A friend I hadn’t seen in more than three decades wrote to tell me he had just remarried, & was finally happy — this followed by a long denunciation of his former wife, whom I had known back then when all of us were young, & who, through tireless manipulation & deceit (he claimed), had managed to get full custody of the kids, ruining two decades of his life. “She would not show me the room where the children slept,” he wrote, “or so much as offer me a cup of water from the kitchen tap.” I was shocked, though at the same time couldn’t help but recollect that afternoon a few weeks after his first son’s birth, when he’d dropped by, exuberantly happy, & in the midst of laughing about how little sleep they got these days, mentioned, in passing, that they had taken Pica, their lovable Irish setter, back to the pound: “With an infant in the house . . . ,” he started to explain — the way one might about a troublesome TV or a sofa bed returned for taking too much space up in the den. “Why didn’t . . . you find her a home?” I tried to keep my voice under control. “You know as well as I do, at those places only puppies get adopted. She’ll be put down.” It came out broken. I could hardly wrap my mouth about the words. — “Oh, not at all. Pica’s so adorable she’s bound to find another home!” He shook his head with a dismissive laugh, & then went on again about the endless pleasures of his newborn son. & I said nothing further. What more, I’d like to know, could I have said? By the time I was done with that letter, & that flood of memories, the sun was setting. I sat there for a long moment, & then read it through a second time, trying, this time, to be careful not to betray our friendship, to keep in mind what a decent, fine, well-intentioned fellow he had been, & all that he had suffered. Though it didn’t work: Pica pacing back and forth across the cage of his disquieting letter, pausing now & then to lick the back of my right hand. She could not comprehend what had happened. Had she done something wrong? Where were those humans she had loved so much, those humans who had seemed so trustworthy & generous & kind?